Quick question: What medical condition does the United States spend the most money on?
According to the journal Health Affairs, in 2013 nearly $122 billion was spent to treat cancer, and heart conditions received $147 billion. These are understandable; both conditions are complex and often require multiple medicines, procedures and professionals to treat. However, they’re not remotely the most expensive medical condition: Health Affairs reports $201 billion was spent treating mental disorders during 2013.
The U.S. isn’t alone; mental disorders top spending lists worldwide. A Harvard University research group presented data at the 2015 World Economic Forum. Based on 2010 data, they estimated mental health costs were $2.5 trillion that same year. The Harvard researchers also estimated the total global cost will climb to $6 trillion by 2030.
As mortality declines for some conditions, spending increases for mental disorders
The study also found the spending increases for heart conditions and cerebrovascular disease were much lower, a result attributed to campaigns against smoking and better treatments for risk factors like hypertension, which have resulted in shrinking death rates for these conditions.
Speaking to Health Affairs’ blog, study author Charles Roehrig, Ph.D., of the Ann Arbor-based Altarum Institute, said these same “reductions in deaths from heart conditions and cerebrovascular disease are likely to drive spending on mental disorders even higher, as more people survive to older ages – when mental disorders, such as dementia, become more prevalent.”
A recent study published in the Lancet showed there may be real benefits for increased spending on mental health. The study projects the economic and health benefits of investing in psychiatric care for anxiety and depression, the two most common mental disorders. These two disorders are associated with a high economic cost due to missed work days, lowered productivity and higher unemployment. Additionally, the study projects governments could see a $4 return for every dollar spent on mental health treatment like counseling.
But increased spending can’t force people to seek help.
Stigma is huge barrier to treatment
Mental health has long had a powerful stigma. A recent study published in Psychological Medicine found stigma is one of the top reasons people avoid mental health treatment. Researchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry examined nearly 150 studies including over 90,000 global studies, finding stigma is still a powerful force in determining if people seek mental health treatment. The types of stigma respondents experienced included:
Treatment stigma – stigma from using or receiving mental health treatment
Internalized sigma – shame and embarrassment from using or receiving mental health treatment
“Our study clearly demonstrates that mental health stigma plays an important role in preventing people from accessing treatment,” said study lead author Sarah Clement, Ph.D., in a King’s College press release. “We found that the fear of disclosing a mental health condition was a particularly common barrier. Supporting people to talk about their mental health problems, for example through anti-stigma campaigns, may mean they are more likely to seek help.”
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 40 to 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia – both of which are very serious mental disorders – go untreated.
Affordability another huge barrier to treatment
A survey conducted in 2014 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found the main reason people did not receive mental health services in the U.S. was because nearly half of their respondents could not afford treatment. SAMHSA also reports young people aged from 18 to 25 are among the most impacted by the cost of treatment – of the 1.5 million young adults reporting they needed mental health intervention in the past year, over half experienced cost and insurance issues as a barrier to treatment.
Although depressive and anxiety disorders are common, they also respond to treatment. The National Institute of Health reports 80 percent of people with depression show an improvement in their symptoms within a month and a half of starting treatment.
Sovereign Health offers a wide range of effective, scientifically proven methods to treat mental disorders, substance abuse and mental disorders. Contact our 24/7 helpline for more information about our programs.
About the author Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at email@example.com.